Rasmussen a Straight Shooter on and Off the Court

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Don't talk to Faith Baptist High center Peter Rasmussen about pressure.

Rasmussen had a bellyful of butterflies Saturday night as he toed the free-throw line with 18 seconds to play and Faith Baptist clinging to a one-point lead over Delphic League rival Campbell Hall in a boys' Southern regional Division V basketball final at Cal State Dominguez Hills.

"I felt it, no doubt," said Rasmussen, a 6-foot-8 senior. "A lot of things passed through my mind." Such as:

-- How as a freshman he clanked the front end of a one and one in overtime in a playoff loss to Pasadena Poly.

-- How another miss might cost Faith Baptist a trip to the state Division V final Saturday in Sacramento.

-- How a guy's shoulders can take only so much weight.

"I guess you could say I had been there before," Rasmussen said. "I remember how badly I felt. I thought, 'I can't miss this also.' I just pretended I was practicing. Just me and the basket."

This time, Rasmussen came through. The pair of free throws pushed his team-high point total to 20 and lifted the Contenders to a 63-60 victory--their third over Campbell Hall in four meetings this season.

Faith Baptist will play Ripon Christian for the state championship.

"There is no one I would rather have at the line than Peter," Faith Baptist Coach Stuart Mason said.

And justifiably so. Rasmussen is shooting a team-best 83.1% (108 of 130) from the free-throw line to go with season averages of 16 points and 10.5 rebounds.

Converting in a do-or-die situation from 15 feet must seem like a relatively easy task for Rasmussen, who is not accustomed to making mistakes.

Stepping to the line? No problem.

Stepping out of line? That's pressure.

Rasmussen is the son of Roland Rasmussen, pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Canoga Park, and Margaret Rasmussen, the school's principal. That can make for some mighty expedient disciplinary action at home and in school.

In Rasmussen's case, however, few measures have been necessary.

Roland Rasmussen has served as pastor since 1960. Margaret Rasmussen has served as principal since the couple founded the school in 1963.

Peter, the youngest of seven children to attend Faith Baptist, is well-mannered, courteous and disciplined. He addresses elders as "sir." He is, Mason said, "what Faith Baptist is all about."

Maybe he has to be.

"You feel a little pressure being in that situation," Rasmussen said. "People don't expect you to make a mistake. People expect you to be a certain way. They just have expectations of what you should do. You get tired of it."

Roland Rasmussen said he knows his children have been subjected to lofty expectations--by himself, teachers and classmates--throughout their lives. All have participated in sports at Faith Baptist, mostly as a way of learning discipline.

"I think they do face a bit more pressure," Roland Rasmussen said. "We were talking about this at the dinner table last night and Peter said, '(I am) watched a great deal.' But we really feel that they've had a normal life."

Said Peter: "My father has always been very strict but very fair and loving."

In Peter's case, that meant a lot of extra baskets in the afternoon. He routinely shoots 1,500 a week and his father often serves as rebounder.

On the court, Rasmussen has been a beacon of consistency. He has not missed a game since joining the varsity near the end of his freshman season, a string of 90 consecutive games. He needs 11 rebounds Saturday to finish his career with 1,000.

As a 6-foot sixth-grader, Rasmussen caught the eye of his teacher, who happened to be Mason. "I knew what was coming," Mason said with a smile.

The coach's anticipation grew while Rasmussen and classmates Alex Estrada and Darren Wyre dribbled their way from the playground to high school basketball practice. The trio led Faith Baptist to the Southern Section 1-A Division basketball title in 1990.

Always good athletes, they are even better citizens, Mason said.

"I think Peter has had to (measure) up to certain expectations," Mason said. "He is very close to his parents and has never wanted to do anything to disappoint them. And they have really encouraged Peter to be himself."

One almost has to laugh when Rasmussen describes himself as "a little terror" during his elementary-school days, especially when the best example of misbehavior he can offer is occasionally kicking a classmate's ball across the playground.

"I never was really terrible," he said. "Mostly, since junior high, I've really mellowed. I guess I could never really get away with anything. At the time, you think that's really bad. But it makes you a better person."

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